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Most patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) express HLA-DR4, HLA-DR1 or HLA-DR10. These alleles share a common amino acid motif in their third hypervariable regions: the shared epitope. In normals and patients with RA, HLA-DR genes exert a major influence on the CD4 αβ T-cell repertoire, as shown by studies of AV and BV gene usage and BV BJ gene usage by peripheral blood CD4 αβ T cells. However, the rheumatoid T-cell repertoire is not entirely under HLA-DR influence, as demonstrated by discrepancies in VB JB gene usage between identical twins discordant for RA and by contraction of the CD4 αβ T-cell repertoire in RA patients. Shared epitope positive HLA-DR alleles may shape the T-cell repertoire by presenting self peptides to CD4 T cells in the thymus. Peptides processed from HLA-DR molecules and encompassing the shared epitope may also be presented by HLA-DQ and select CD4 αβ T cells in the thymus. Thus, shared epitope-positive alleles impose a frame on the T-cell repertoire. This predisposing frame is further modified (by unknown factors) to obtain the contracted rheumatoid repertoire.
Roudier, J. (2000). Association of MHC and rheumatoid arthritis association of RA with HLA-DR4: The role of repertoire selection. Arthritis Research. BioMed Central Ltd. https://doi.org/10.1186/ar91